When I was growing up, kids played outside with their friends, families ate dinner together, churches drew large crowds, and local community events (like 4th of July parades) were plentiful. But as the current century drives on, I'm seeing these trends change. The 21st-century kid typically spends a lot of time alone watching television, involved in various social media distractions, and/or playing the latest version of some online/virtual game. Families are spending less "quality time" with one another, and daily dinner time has become something families "used to do" or something they "want to do but don't have time for." Churches are emptying faster than they are filling. And community events...well, those are dwindling in number rapidly, soon to be cultural icons of yesterday.
Now, I know this is starting to sound like one of those nostalgic posts written by an embittered "old guy" who longs to have things "the way they used to be." That's not the case at all. Let me explain.
I am not concerned about these trends because I want things in our culture to stagnate. Personally, I'm a fan of change and progress (if it proceeds in a positive direction, of course). Thank the Lord that our country progressed from racial segregation to racial integration in the 1960s. Praise God that we no longer make excuses for child abuse in the home. I'm glad employers are no longer considered infallible dictators and their employees a set of voiceless subjects. I love that technology has made life much more efficient for all of us. Indeed, there are a great many things that have changed and are changing in our world that I applaud. But what terrifies me are the trends that lead us in the opposite direction of relationship-building and toward the abyss of hyper-individualism and isolation...such as the trends I mentioned in my introduction.
We are designed emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and even physically for social interaction. Human beings are not made for isolation. Accounts from POWs, neglected children, marginalized ethnic groups, and others demonstrate that lack of positive social interaction has deleterious effects on the human psyche which, if left unchecked, can lead to serious mental and emotional disorders. Now, I'm no mental health expert, but it seems to me that our trends away from familial, brotherly, and community interaction are something we must consider critically. In my mind, churches, community events, playtime with friends, and core-family events are ways to ensure that we remain grounded as relational beings. Give these up--or allow them to become marginalized--and we risk becoming...well...what we are becoming as a people, namely, lonely, depressed, purposeless, and...you fill in the blank.